Hawaii Superferry Dealt Another Setback

State lawmakers meet with John Garibaldi, CEO of Hawaii Superferry.
State lawmakers meet with John Garibaldi, CEO of Hawaii Superferry.
Ferry terminal at Honolulu Harbor
Ferry terminal at Honolulu Harbor

(KHNL) - Hawaii Superferry plans to transport passengers and automobiles between islands. But state lawmakers say they'll withhold $10 million in funding if their questions aren't answered.

"It's taken a long time for Hawaii Superferry to come to the table and discuss those concerns with the constituents of the neighbor islands," said Sen. Shan Tsutsui.

The company hopes to start its service in July 2007 and says the loss of state funds could sink those plans.

"If there's not enough funds here to develop the ports as they need to be developed, it would have a very, very negative impact on our operation," said John Garibaldi, Hawaii Superferry chief executive officer.

Lawmakers question the company's impact on traffic around state harbors. They also wonder how it plans to compete with airlines charging $39 for inter-island fares.

"Our belief that the $39 fare is a short term fare, a teaser fare," Garibaldi said.

The state has built a ferry terminal at Honolulu Harbor. A total of $40 million has been set aside for harbor upgrades across the state.

The company does not currently have this kind of permanent facilities at its ports on the neighbor islands. Some lawmakers are worried the state might eventually have to cover the cost of building those facilities some time in the future.

"I would hate to see the state put one foot in the door and a few years down the road, HSF is coming back and saying we need more funding for more harbor improvements," Tsutsui said.